Our country’s old forests need protection from logging

Our country’s oldest trees are some of our strongest allies in fighting climate change — but they need our protection to keep standing tall.


Bonnie Moreland via Flickr | Public Domain
America’s forests are irreplaceable ecosystems and crucial resources in fighting climate change — yet vast tracts of them are unprotected.

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Approximately 50 million acres of mature forests on federal lands in the U.S. are unprotected from logging.

These wizened trees also happen to be one of our strongest allies in the fight against global warming — they’re one of the most effective ways to remove carbon from our atmosphere.

We cannot afford to chop down our most valuable trees and forests. 

Old forests protect our planet

Older forests make up approximately 167 million acres, or 36%, of all forests in the continental U.S. Some of the trees are in the 80- to 100-year-old range, while others have been around for centuries or even millenia.

For instance, at 4,789 years old, a Great Basin bristlecone pine known as Methuselah holds the title of the oldest known living tree in the world. Methuselah is protected by the Inyo National Forest in California and by the U.S. Forest Service, who keep its exact location a carefully guarded secret.

We know instinctively that Methuselah and the thousands of other old trees in our nation’s forests are worth protecting just for their own sake. But we also know that mature and old-growth forests are one of our strongest bulwarks against climate change. They absorb huge amounts of carbon over their lifetimes — a climate solution that we lose the moment we fell them.

Mature forests that reside in our country’s national parks are largely protected from logging. But a much larger swath of old-growth trees isn’t.

More than three-quarters of forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management — which make up the majority of federally managed forests — don’t have strong logging protections.

It’s time we protect them

The most effective way to convince our decision-makers to beef up protections for these irreplaceable trees? Organizing. Support from environmentalists like you is what allows us to build a wave of grassroots momentum for our nation’s forests.

Together, we’ve already won several key victories for our forests:

  • This past Earth Day, President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing his administration to inventory old forests and enact strong policies to protect them. The announcement is a great first step in the Environment Virginia campaign with one of our simplest messages: Let old trees grow.
  • In May, Home Depot shareholders took up the cause by passing a Environment Virginia-backed directive for the company to produce a report disclosing its current impact on primary forests.
  • Our advocacy also helped spur a July announcement from Procter & Gamble (P&G), the company behind Charmin, Puffs and Bounty, that it will introduce a new bamboo-based product that won’t rely on wood logged from Canada’s boreal forest. This incredible wild place is being logged at the rate of one and a half football fields of forest every minute — but P&G’s new commitment could be the start of an industry-wide shift away from turning these old, steadfast trees into toilet paper.

And we’re just getting started. With your help, we can finalize the protections we’ve worked so hard to put on the table. 

To help keep our campaigns to protect our country’s forests running strong in 2023, we’ve set the goal of raising $200,000 by Dec. 31 as part of our Year-End Drive. Will you donate to help us reach that goal and to help protect our country’s irreplaceable forests?


Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America

Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.